My God, the world’s gone crazy! Magnet school changes…

November 10, 2009 at 7:41 pm 32 comments

A few people have sent me this Sun Times article today about possible changes in magnet school admission policies now that the consent decree has been overturned (for those who are new, that means minority-race kids don’t get their own separate lottery any more, guaranteeing them spaces.),CST-NWS-magnet10.article

A few exerpts:

The new policy is also expected to be more family and neighborhood friendly, sources say.

Siblings would more priority than they do now.  I was under the impression that most do get in, but I know the parents sweat it out every year, wondering if they’ll have kids in 2 different schools.

After the sibling lottery, sources said, half of the remaining seats would go to neighborhood kids — up from a current threshold of 30 percent in most magnet schools.

And the other half of the seats would be decided based on socioeconomic factors — the most complicated part of the equation.  (This included some convoluted way to determine at-need kids that I couldn’t understand.)

OK, so now my comments.  I like the sibling thing.  I think it’s crazy to expect families to have kids in 2 different schools.  I feel like when you get in a magnet school, your family is in.

As for the neighborhood thing, I think I gotta a big no-way.  Except for saving gas, I don’t see why the local people should get any preference for a magnet school.   Is it a magnet or not?  It just seems to create another weird tier of haves and have-nots.  You can’t even count on getting into the school if you buy a house in the neighborhood so in theory it won’t attract people.  And it makes the odds utterly minute of anyone else getting in.  Mainly it just turns our crazy little magnet system upside down just when I’d gotten used to the unfairness of it.  Some part of me still thinks there should be magnets and neighborhood schools without mixing the two.  Maybe it’s better this way.  I don’t know. Can someone help me know what to think?

Oh, and before people totally panic, CPS hasn’t approved any of this yet.  It’s all in the “sources say” stage.


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32 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Y  |  November 11, 2009 at 12:18 am

    It sounds like a lot of these decisions were made to help reduce transportation costs for CPS, which treats it as a huge overhead. With more neighborhood kids at a magnet, CPS has fewer students to bus since they won’t be eligible (too close). More sibling spots will lead to fewer pick-up/drop-off locations on a route since you get two, three, or more kids at the same stop.

    I hope they will be rethinking the funding for the magnet schools since it would seem unfair for them to receive any significant extra funding when they are now likely to be a 50% neighborhood school. I think the changes at Oscar Mayer over the last few years has set a precedence for the announced changes today. From my understanding, Mayer is a neighborhood magnet school (not magnet cluster) with Montessori and pre-IB programs. Unlike other magnets, they still have an attendance area, so all kids in the attendance area can automatically enroll. I wonder if the property values around Hawthorne, LaSalle, Franklin, Newberry and others will tick upwards with this change.

    This new setup will make it even more difficult to get into the magnets unless you happen to live nearby. Really, if they are going this far, it would almost make sense to revert many of the magnets back to neighborhood schools and help reduce the attendance area of adjacent schools, which now have to cover the area formerly served by the magnet. For example, Nettelhorst is the neighborhood school for what was a lot of Hawthorne’s attendance boundary when it was a regular neighborhood school. Students are coming from nearly a mile away and crossing two or three major streets in order to get to Nettelhorst when Hawthorne is only a couple blocks away.

    Sadly, this proposed plan is not good news for families living in areas with poor neighborhood schools.

  • 2. Y  |  November 11, 2009 at 1:01 am

    good insights Y.

  • 3. KevinG.  |  November 11, 2009 at 9:35 am

    Per Y’s post, I believe that having a great magnet school will help some neighborhoods, real-estate value-wise, but this will be limited to areas that are more “recent” in terms of attracting average to above average socioeconomic groups. The areas around LaSalle and Newberry are populated with people who worry about getting their child into the right PRIVATE school, then use their famously good neighborgood school (Lincoln Elementary) as a “backup plan” for staying in the city (with the possible exception of LaSalle, but admission there is so difficult statistically that nobody ever counts on it as an option). I’ve seen many $2million-plus home listings mentioning “Lincoln School District” as an attibute, but have never seen proximity to LaSalle or Newberry mentioned. I live in Lincoln Park and it always surprises me how oblivious many parents in my neighborhood are to the whole CPS debate/discussion. When I talk schools at the playgrouds it’s always a long list of private schools that most people talk about and where (in the suburbs)they’ll move if things don’t work out. Nobody seems to have even heard of my son’s CPS school, although it’s one of the best in the state! My family is definitely an exception as we actually took our son out of a great private school to take advantage of admission to a CPS gifted school. Many people I know apply to lot of private schools, then panic and move to the North Shore if things don’t work out, as if CPS weren’t even an option. It’s so sad that there are still large numbers of people (usually, but always on the higher end socioeconomically and usually, but not always somewhat progressive in their attitudes) for whom public schools in an urban envorionment is a non-issue. But that’s where we are in 2009 — a supposedly egalitarian country where the reality is so stratified that many/most rich people won’t even seriously consider an urban public school for their children (even a good one) but somehow it’s just fine for other peoples’ kids. Meanwhile, people who are concerned about their childrens’ future and who want to live in a diverse city like Chicago but who aren’t rich, have to deal with all the admissions angst, bureaucaracy, lousy teachers who can’t be fired because of tenure, etc. that come with CPS –is it any wonder so many people just throw their hands in the air and move to whatever suburb with decent public schools that they can afford?

  • 4. cps mom  |  November 11, 2009 at 9:45 am

    And there is another article in the paper today. Time to look up your census tracts- here is a link I found

    I actually think the selective enrollment process is a somewhat well balanced approach.

  • 5. LR  |  November 11, 2009 at 10:45 am

    I can’t decide if this is a good thing or just makes things more complicated. Probably the latter. I don’t know how they define “needy”, but, I hope it is broad enough to include middle-class people who can’t afford to pay for private school. That’s who would get squeezed in this whole thing because essentially it is taking the magnet school option off the table (unless they happen to live in the neighborhood). I think if the goal is to take magnet schools and make them more neighborhood-based, that will happen. But, in doing that, CPS is taking options away from other people outside the neighborhood (assuming they don’t qualify as needy). That’s a rough trade-off. Instead of messing around with magnet school lotteries, I think CPS needs to focus some energy on how to provide gifted and classical curricula for all qualified kids – not just kids at the 99th percentile.

  • 6. Mayfair Dad  |  November 11, 2009 at 10:59 am

    Rather than isolated pockets of excellence for the clouted or the lucky, every CPS neighborhood school should offer a high quality education. Every classroom in every school should have a smartboard (and a teacher who knows how to use it). Every student in every school should have access to a computer, learn music, study art, perform experiments in a science lab, enjoy recess. Every school should be a magnet school. This is not pie-in-the-sky optimism, this should be the stated goal of CPS.

    The magnet school approach FAILED for the vast majority of children in Chicago. (50% high school drop-out rate?) Now it is time to try something new.

  • 7. Y  |  November 11, 2009 at 11:28 am

    KevinG – Very interesting insight on LP and Near North families and the lack of support of public schools. There must be enough families who think like you do since I think Lincoln and Ogden are pretty full these days. It seems like there could be enough neighborhood students to go to LaSalle, Newberry, or Franklin if one of them became un-magneted. Consider that there’s a huge hole between Lincoln, Mayer, and Ogden without an actual nearby neighborhood school. The current setup where someone living at North and Wells would have a child attending Lincoln as their neighborhood school is insane. It’s over a mile, which is a 20 minute walk in each direction for a child.

    Not sure who posted the second response but I’m not schizophrenic enough to compliment myself.

  • 8. cpsmama  |  November 11, 2009 at 1:14 pm

    Sibling preference appears to be only for non-testing magnet schools (ie for gifted, classical and selective enrollment HS, having a sibling at the school won’t matter)

    The use of census tract data from the year 2000 is appalling- many Chicago neighborhoods have transformed from poor to gentrified in the past 9 years.

    This is a link to a presentation of CPS new admissions
    process which offers more info:

    Click to access CPS_desegpolicydeck.pdf

  • 9. Mom  |  November 11, 2009 at 1:45 pm

    cpsmama — did you read somewhere that they are using 2000 census data? I thought they are using “updated census data” — there are websites where you can plug your address in and see what the data is for your tract — you can choose to see “2009” information rather than 2000 information. If you saw that they are indeed using 2000 data, could you point me to it? I’m very interested to know! Thanks!

  • 10. Y  |  November 11, 2009 at 1:54 pm

    WBEZ also offers this simplified explanation –

    The slide deck linked by cpsmama is very informative. Thanks.

  • 11. CPS Mom of Boys  |  November 11, 2009 at 2:56 pm

    For SE HS previously there was a control for gender. Studies show that boys do not test as well as girls. This is across race and SES. I have seen no mention of gender. Did they take that out of the process? I surely hope not. I think I will go to a hearing and say that seats should also be controlled for gender. Moms of boys beware….

  • 12. RL Julia  |  November 11, 2009 at 4:02 pm

    What ever plan is stated, voted and theoretically in place – will it really be solidified in time for this year’s round of applications? Everything is up in the air.

    I am with Mayfair dad- I am sick of this system of have and have nots or at the perception of such with CPS schools. Every child is entitled to decent education in a safe building, with a qualified teacher and etc… the under lying culture/assumption (by CPS and accepted by every person (myself included) that has competed in this system via the lotteries) that this sort of equity couldn’t possibly be achieved is just depressing.

  • 13. hopeful  |  November 11, 2009 at 5:56 pm

    I will be surprised if any parent opinions change the plan as stated. CPS is famous for holding “community” input meetings on issues it has already made up its mind about. Think about all the folks who screamed bloody murder about their schools being shut down and reconstituted under REN2010. The board has made up its mind, or Daley has. Don’t count on the system caring about what anyone else thinks!

  • 14. dave4118  |  November 12, 2009 at 7:28 am

    So I diligently investigated some links posted here, thanks all. Yes, the plan has a tiered system…which seems to be broken down by five factors based on 2000 census tracts(with updates provided by a private vendor). These four tiers all will split evenly the 50% of slots for gifted placement. This affects my daughter in this way…we seem to fall into the 3rd tier(1st tier being the worst socioeconomic conditions,4th the best conditions). Say the third tier would presumably have more applicants taking the gifted assessment than the 1st tier….my daughter is now competing with 1,000 other applicants for third tier slots, as opposed to 300 applicants in the 1st tier-for an equal amount of slots. We will cross our fingers and hope she ranks well enough for assignment based on test scores, not socioeconomic considerations…which in my estimation is ultimately good.

  • 15. LR  |  November 12, 2009 at 11:10 am

    I’m confused. Is it just Median Family Income or are they using some sort of formula that includes 5 different variables? According to the deck above listed by CPS mama, your census tract gets a composite score based on 5 variables derived from the census data (Median Family Income, Adult Educational Attainment, % single parent households, % owner occupied homes, and % non-English language). Just trying to figure out where we stand.

  • 16. chicagomom2  |  November 12, 2009 at 2:00 pm

    I agree that socio-economic is a more fair and better way to diversify the schools. BUT using 2000 data? That is ridiculous considering how much the neighborhoods have changed! Not to mention 50% of the slots goes to neighborhood kids? I guess the middle class neighborhoods kids who don’t live near Hawthrone, Oscar Mayer, Newberry, etc are screwed. My husband and I want to raise our kids in the city but they are really make it hard for those of us who don’t live in the elite parts of the city.

  • 17. Y  |  November 12, 2009 at 2:13 pm

    @LR – Each census tract has a CPS score based on the 5 criteria you listed. The tract scores and the formula used have not been revealed yet. All of the tracts are ranked from top to bottom using the scores. They then divide the tracts into four groups with an equal number of students in each group (the lower socioeconomic groups encompass fewer tracts). This determines who you are competing with for the 12.5% of the slots dedicated to your socioeconomic group.

    Overall, the system is now setup where everyone has the same percentage of slots potentially available, 62.5%. It’ll be curious if CPS ever discusses the number of applications from each group to see how much more competitive the 12.5% slots are from group 4 versus group 1.

  • 18. chicagomom2  |  November 12, 2009 at 3:03 pm

    Check out this doc which has the number of siblings applied/accepted last year from the schools.

    Click to access magnetchart.pdf

    For a top school like Hawthorne using the new admissions process there would be only 6-7 slots left after the siblings and neighborhood kids for the ENTIRE city of CHICAGO split among 4 groups!? Good luck if you don’t live in the district or have a sibling who already attends there! I attended their recent open house in which the principal said that her school is already 36% neighborhood so this would only add to that percentage. Can somebody explain to me how that can be defined as a magnet with diversity?

  • 19. cpsobsessed  |  November 12, 2009 at 3:10 pm

    I’m wondering if the slots for neighborhood kids applies only to schools that ALREADY have a neighborhood component (such as Oscar Mayer?) It seems pretty radical to just add that wild card into the Magnet mix. I mean really, parents near Hawthorne must be out partying in the streets, right? If it DOES swing that much to the neighborhood and then siblings get preference, well, it’ll be mainly a neighborhood school at some point.

    Does anyone know how small a census tract gets? I suppose I should know these things but I don’t.

  • 20. cpsobsessed  |  November 12, 2009 at 3:15 pm

    Great link Chicagomom2.
    Wow, Stone, LaSalle, Andrew Jackson, Disneys and other take at least a full K class of kids!
    Hawthorne is actually a little lower on the list (but maybe a smaller school?)

    I still don’t mind the policy. I figure it is like they’re letting a family in, not just a child. Not that it does me any good since I just have 1 kid anyhow.

  • 21. chicagomom2  |  November 12, 2009 at 5:15 pm

    I am absolutely in favor of the sibling policy – just not so thrilled about the 50% neighborhood. That is not what a magnet school is suppose to be. I have 2 kids and am currently in the midst of trying to get my 1st child situated 🙂 Thanks so much for your blog – I wished I would’ve found this last year! I’ve learned a lot from all the postings and comments. Wish me luck trying to get my daughter a quality education in the CPS web.

  • 22. dave4118  |  November 12, 2009 at 6:08 pm

    I have good friends that didn’t make the lottery for hawthorne for their oldest daughter, so they sent her and her younger sisters to st andrews. now they have no entree with the sibling preference and they live in the immediate area…i mean like three blocks away.

  • 23. 2 cents  |  November 12, 2009 at 8:35 pm

    Hello? I think that gifted should mean GIFTED. Hence, the top 30 scores get in, regardless of whatever.

  • 24. Y  |  November 13, 2009 at 12:05 am

    @ChicagoMom2 – Thanks for the link. The list is missing how many total slots each school has at the specific grade. It’s been a couple of years since I toured Hawthorne but I thought they have two KG classrooms.

  • 25. chicago parent  |  November 13, 2009 at 8:56 am

    Richard K who designed this system to promote socio-economic diversity lives in Betheseda, Maryland — one of the richest, least economically diverse areas in the entire country. I wonder if he would be so hot on the idea if he lived in Washington & there were only 4 decent high schools in the entire city? Would he favor a program that would give 3/8s of the spots to kids who scored lower and there were no viable alternatives to get a good education? I think his 4 kids should be bussed to DC because we all know that the presence of more middle class kids would help the learning of the other children in the classroom. Like that is going to happen. Why are the kids who happen to live in a city subject to social experiments like lab rats by people who have no idea of what it is like — yet pay all the taxes.

  • 26. ggg  |  November 15, 2009 at 12:59 pm

    It’s actually a dilemma for us in the Lincoln/LaSalle area. I actually want my child to go to a neighborhood school, and NOT a magnet, as I am happy to support what I think is a great neighborhood school. My issue is now it seems like LaSalle may be more and more a neighborhood school. It’s an issue, because I don’t want to be the only parent in the neighborhood going to Lincoln when all of my children’s friends go to LaSalle. Even though I live far closer to LaSalle, I don’t even think it’s fair. Is it a magnet or a neighborhood school? Lincoln is overcrowded. When are they going to deal with the fact that there ARE parents who believe in a public school education? And a lot of them live in the same area! where our local school is overcrowded! I don’t see how this is helping diversity … and people in poorer neighborhoods. I wish we had a FIVE year plan and beyond. A “one year plan” with option to revise is not acceptable after they’ve had YEARS to prepare for this. I would have like a 5-10 year plan. They knew this was coming. They have no excuses for not having had a plan in place sooner. A long term plan.

  • 27. Mayfair Dad  |  November 16, 2009 at 10:36 am

    From the CPS calendar:

    Admissions policy community meeting

    November 19, 2009
    6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
    Amundsen High School
    5110 N. Damen Ave.

    Participate in a community meeting about our new admissions policies. Visit CPS website for more details.

  • 28. cps meeting  |  November 16, 2009 at 5:41 pm

    did anyone attend the meeting on saturday at Andrew Jackson?

  • 29. Jan  |  November 17, 2009 at 9:23 am

    GGG — LaSalle will have the same # of kids from the neighborhood as before for many years to come, given that the siblings get first and guaranteed priority, and then 50 percent of remaining slots go to proximity. Each year, about half the LaSalle K class will be siblings, 25 percent proximity (15 kids), and 25 percent open lottery.

    Even with the proximity admissions, keep in mind that they could live up to 1.5 miles away, so they’re not really neighborhood kids, as they might live in River North, East Bucktown, Lakeview, etc. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! Just not conducive to walking to playdates after school, if that’s the kind of thing you’re looking for. Lincoln is definitely the neighborhood school.

  • 30. ggg  |  November 17, 2009 at 11:40 am

    Jan, thank you so much for putting it into perspective. I thought that in the past only 45% or so could be from proximity and if they had already filled those spots, there would be no proximity lottery. So, I thought this might be a “drastic” change as far as the feeling of the school being a “neighborhood” school.

    I really appreciate your doing the math for me!

    Regardless, though, it’s looking more and more like Lincoln, even if we do get one of the few proximity spots. You are right. I want to walk through the neighborhood, waving to all the parents and kids from school. It’s hard enough as it is here, as so many go to the private schools nearby. I know that’s not what everyone is looking for in a school, but for some reason, it is important to me. And Lincoln is an excellent school, too.

    Thank you so much. I really appreciate your help!

  • 31. Jan  |  November 19, 2009 at 1:17 pm

    You’re welcome, GGG. Our area is so densely populated (I live right near LaSalle as well but dd attends Lincoln) and when there are 70 to 75 kids enrolled in your child’s grade at Lincoln (all of whom living in the enrollment boundaries since virtually no exceptions are made any more), there are bound to be many who live within blocks of your house with whom you weren’t even acquainted until grade school begins. It’s a great school with a lot going for it.

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